One of the most fascinating projects we’ve worked on as a firm was centered around metastatic breast cancer for women in stage four. These are women in the very last phase of cancer progression and, in all likelihood, approaching the end of life. The study was conducted in a multitude of countries and it put a “face” on, and created tangible awareness of, a side of breast cancer the media typically misses. This was a departure from the typical “pink ribbon” media campaign focused on the breast cancer survivors – it was a daring and special effort to understand the side of a well publicized illness we don’t usually get exposed to.
Which one obtained the most media coverage?
Research studies for media campaigns sometimes yield surprising and unpredictable results. Last year we conducted a research study in the US for a technology company focused on mobile phone usage. One of the unexpected pieces of data we uncovered from our nationwide survey created nothing short of a global firestorm in terms of media coverage, including every imaginable TV network, and even humorous skits on late night TV. Approximately ten percent of the survey respondents stated that they use mobile phones in the bedroom during the most private of moments with their partners. Even when humor or a risqué angle were not a part of the original intent in a campaign, if done appropriately, it can create substantial brand awareness for the sponsor and major media outlets have no problem running with it (Americans Can’t Put Down Their Smartphones, Even During Sex).
How has research changed with the emergence of online, mobile and social media?
To imagine a pre-Internet and pre-mobile telephone world is becoming difficult even for those of us who began careers before these technologies were mainstream. In a way, when it comes to research, there’s quite a bit of quantum mechanics involved – we’ve been able to collapse the space-time continuum. If you can imagine that research surveys at one not-so-distant point in time could only be conducted with pencil and paper over a landline phone or in person, and with understandable geographic constraints, you might be able to understand how truly wonderful it is to have the bandwidth and data speed we have today when reaching wider audiences, and being able to do it in a fraction of the time. Nowadays, ideas, knowledge, and opinions can get disseminated at the speed of a screen touch and this creates a much more dynamic and engaged world. We have the ability to gauge awareness and responsiveness to events and themes that are current and pertinent to what a specific target audience is experiencing “now”. Much of this was not possible nor economically feasible before the Internet and mobile phones.
What is the difference between research for PR versus corporate strategy purposes?
PR/newsmaker and corporate strategy research are similar in some respects so it’s easy to confuse the two, but there are some key distinctions. From a broad perspective, market research is typically (or at least, should be) conducted with a strategic aim in mind. When done properly, it should yield actionable insights that can then be translated into tactical directives to help improve brand/product/concept performance or enhance sales force effectiveness, as examples. Given its market intelligence and strategic nature, market research is conducted for “internal consumption” only, and it’s never shared with the outside world. Research for public release, on the other hand, tends to introduce a few more layers of complexity that warrant the engagement of a proper PR research team. The marketing, brand, legal, regulatory, and media implications in the design and execution of research that will be publicly disseminated require careful attention by researchers that live and breathe in the PR space. I’m fortunate to work with a highly talented team of seasoned professionals who do nothing but research for public release. We handle national campaigns and 40+ country, global campaigns with the same degree of professionalism and consistent execution, which our partners and corporate clients have relied upon for year
Tell us a little about yourself.
Currently a Vice-President with Harris Interactive, Inc., I’ve worked and travelled all over the world covering client initiatives in excess of $25 billion. This diversity has afforded me the opportunity to understand and see client engagements from a different perspective. This is not “thinking outside the box”, this is “thinking” in a world that’s fast and fluid, and demands “boxless” solutions that are unique. Consulting and solving clients’ challenges with the right solution have always been my passion. In the business world, much has been reduced to fitting existing products and frameworks to whatever problems arise. My team and I spend quite a bit of energy and intellectual capital framing the problem first, then structuring the specific solution that uniquely addresses the client’s need. This is the rewarding part for me, but also the distinguishing element when a client chooses us.
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